Just over a week ago, we asked you what you wanted to know about Iowa State men’s and women’s basketball and its history in the NCAA Tournament using #AskMeAmes.
In the end, the question that won out was:
“What is the most monumental NCAA Tournament win in Iowa State basketball history?”
To answer this question, let’s go through the history books (and the Iowa State Daily archives) to see for ourselves.
Two games were up for contention with the sports desk for men’s basketball: the 2014 Round of 32 win over No. 6 seed North Carolina, and the 2000 Sweet 16 victory over No. 6 seed UCLA.
But the Cyclones’ win over North Carolina, with all of the drama and national recognition that came with it, was the choice.
Why? Well, this win put an Iowa State squad led by Georges Niang, Naz Mitrou-Long, DeAndre Kane, Melvin Ejim and Dustin Hogue squarely in the national spotlight.
This was also arguably the highlight of the Fred Hoiberg era, which saw the Cyclones reach heights only surpassed in the modern era by the Marcus Fizer/Jamaal Tinsley Elite Eight team of 2000.
The Cyclones have had big wins before. But this game was different.
Heading into the Tournament, Iowa State was on a hot streak after winning the Big 12 Tournament for the first time since 2000. Niang, the Cyclones’ sophomore leader, had broken his right foot against North Carolina Central in the team’s opening game. Without him, Iowa State was an underdog against the five-time NCAA Champion Tar Heels.
DeAndre Kane had arguably the best game of his Iowa State career, scoring a game-high 24 points and adding 10 rebounds and seven assists. Kane made the game-winning layup with 1.8 seconds left. That basket completed a comeback from a five-point deficit with three minutes to play. Hoiberg was confident in the huddle, telling players, “Look at me and smile. We’re going to win this game.”
Despite losing to eventual national champs UCONN, the 2014 run was a catalyst for another Sweet 16 appearance in 2016 and the Cyclones’ continued relevance on the national stage.
On the women’s side of the bracket, 4 seed Iowa State’s 1999 win over No. 1 seeded UCONN in the Sweet 16 has been the most impactful. It took the Cyclones to their first ever Elite Eight, and the victory over a UCONN team in the midst of building the most dominant sporting force of the 2000s made a statement that what Bill Fennelly was building in Ames could be successful.
The 64-58 win came in the Cyclones’ first ever Sweet 16 appearance after making the round of 32 in 1998. This was Iowa State’s first taste of postseason success in women’s basketball, as the Cyclones had never made an NCAA Tournament before 1997, Fennelly’s third season at the helm.
Following their run in 1999, the Cyclones would make the Sweet 16 three times in the 2000s and establish themselves as a yearly threat in the Big 12.
The Sweet 16 victory over UCONN — a No. 1 seed with a national championship in 1995 — made all that following success possible, while also serving as the high point in the program’s history.
“We went from one of the worst programs in the country to the Elite Eight,” Megan Taylor told the Daily in 2009. “It’s amazing how much we’ve turned it around.”
What else do you want to find out about Iowa State? Stay tuned for the next #AskMeAmes.